Student in FHML’s faculty council raises language issue again

Student in FHML’s faculty council raises language issue again

Executive Board waiting on government decision about desired language in “official university matters”

31-01-2024 · News

MAASTRICHT. You have been appointed as faculty council member at Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, but you don’t speak or understand the official language: Dutch. What to do? Last week, Olga Kosjakova from the Czech Republic appealed to the University Council to ask for their help in finding a “workable solution”.

“I have never felt that I didn’t belong in Maastricht, until I became a council member for my faculty.” For as long as can be remembered, the official language for the FHML-council has been Dutch. Also, most documents are provided in Dutch. Apparently, as Olga Kosjakova, a student of Biomedical Sciences states during the University Council’s Speaker’s Quarter, she is the first non-Dutch speaker in that faculty council.

Kosjakova’s fellow party members of NovUM brought up the ‘language issue’ in the University Council on several occasions last autumn. “Is it not very strange that you are elected by students and subsequently can’t carry out your tasks because you don’t understand the language? I assume that everyone in that hall speaks English”, student member Andrew Scrivener asked vice president Nick Bos of the Executive Board in September. Bos emphasised at the time that UM is bi-lingual and that the council may decide themselves what the official language should be. “At the same time, everyone should be able to understand what is being said.”

In the FHML council it was decided that Dutch would continue to be the official language, but that Kosjakova could ask her questions in English. Nevertheless, she is not satisfied with how it has been handled. Surely, something else could be done, certainly for an international university like UM with so many bachelor’s and master’s programmes in English, she said to the University Council.

After Kosjakova’s plea, president Rianne Letschert refers to the discussions that are being held in The Hague at the moment, about the influx of foreign students and language policy and with that also prompts the question: Which language should universities use in “official university matters? We want to await that decision before we formalize a proposal in answer to the concerns you’re raising. Imagine that the government says: ‘All official matters must be dealt with in Dutch from now on’. That would go against our values, but what if that is imposed upon us?” Letschert realises that this doesn’t solve anything for Kosjakova, “but that is the way things look at the moment”.

Author: Wendy Degens

Illustration: Shutterstock

Tags: language, language policy, internationalisation, fhml,council

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